LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton Inc. and Parsons The New School for Design are teaming up to shine some light on artisans and hopefully nurture new talent.
This story first appeared in the January 28, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Through a joint project called “The Art of Craftsmanship Revisited: New York,” teams of students are joining forces with New York City craftspeople. The aim is to cultivate a greater appreciation of the artistry required to create luxury goods, and to ultimately nurture a new generation that will adopt a similar philosophy in their businesses.
Through the initiative, teams of students from a variety of design disciplines have been assigned to “a master artisan” to share the ins and outs of his or her respective trade. Whether watching artists work in their design studios or peppering them with questions, students are trying to glean as many pointers as they can.
Students are creating fashion ensembles and short documentary films inspired by the local artisans’ work and the world of LVMH. Their finery will be showcased — however they choose to do so — Feb. 17 at Milk Studios in New York. A panel of VIP judges will later select three winning teams that will be honored in early June. That will be one of several project-related events that will be held through the summer.
Parsons’ dean of fashion, Simon Collins, said, “In this world where so much is done online, we love the idea of working with people who actually make things just as the students do.”
Artisans’ values — in particular creativity, craftsmanship and respect for artistry — are at the core of LVMH, according to Renaud Dutreil, chairman of LVMH North America. Unlike industrial production, which is often compartmentalized, craftsmanship encompasses a host of issues, including training young people, committing to higher wages, conveying their savoir faire and creating a stronger connection to an object, he said. “The artisan gives a part of his soul to what he is doing,” Dutreil said.
Aside from wanting to extend its practice of giving back to cities where it does business, LVMH is sensitive to how the recession has changed consumers. “The postcrisis customer wants to understand and see how products are made, where they come from and who the people are that make them. Customers are more educated and informed. That can be progress,” said Dutreil.
Students had to compete to participate, by submitting papers, Web site designs, videos or whatever else they felt best showed their visions. Initiated late last year, the project started with 23 teams of Parsons students from Architectural Arts, Ceramic Arts, Furniture Arts, Glass Arts, Graphic Arts, Clock Making, Lighting Arts, Meta Arts, Musical Arts, Textile Arts, Theater Arts, Wood Arts and Restoration and Conservation.
Once accepted, they formed their own teams and learned how to work with others, such as a fashion designer, a video maker and an editor. “They are learning to function as a team as opposed to working independently. That is very difficult to teach without practicing it,” Collins said. “So often in education, people work in silos and just do what they do. But that doesn’t work in professional practice.”
Having seen students’ initial submissions, Collins said he is most looking forward to “how the students will dazzle us. The joy for me in working with students is you never know what they will come up with.”